More Japanese artists need to take a cue from legendary rockers the pillows. After spending years of nonstop album releases -- with some good and others forgettable -- Sawao Yamanaka, Yoshiake Manabe, and Shinichiro Sato learned that it's best to take a breather in-between records to air out the bad material away from the better ones. The results worked in the best way possible with our 2014 Album of the Year pick Moondust, and now a year and-a-half later a similar outcome has been made with their latest record STROLL AND ROLL.
“Debris” cranks it to eleven at the very start of the album, with Yamanaka bellowing out with all his might and not showing any age in his voice. "Kakkō no Su no Shita de” recalls the Little Busters era with a lovely melody about recapturing lost dreams and breaking away from the negativity of the world that surrounds us. The quick "Rock & Roll to Taiyou” shifts into gear as images of Santa Monica, cola, and a happy ride flow past the band with glee. The album’s title track kicks it into full swing with a fluttering heart and a rockabilly attitude that calls back to an era of poodle skirts and slicked-back hair.
One of the surprises on the album is "Elliot no Higeki,” featuring a popish jazz arrangement that feels more at home with the Kool Spice/Living Field era of the pillows. It’s a lovely throwback to an era thought lost after the band went another direction with their sound two decades ago. “I RIOT,” meanwhile, references a certain kind of monster from years past whilst sauntering about carefree. Album closer “Locomotion, more! more!” ends in the way the record started, with pure unadulterated rock & roll pounding hard on the gas pedal and never looking back.
Almost 27 years into their career, and the pillows show no sign of slowing down. STROLL AND ROLL is an album that fires on nearly all its cylinders, with nary a sign of rust to be found in the band's core mechanism. If they keep this up, then the pillows will never have to worry about another Penalty Life/Good Dreams dry spell in the foreseeable future.